Artist's Way Blog
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on January 10, 2014 at 1:05 PM|
January arrives and I feel the urge for purge. I know spring has the moniker "spring cleaning" time but for me January is the time when renewal is on my mind.
And I ain’t alone. I can count on two hands the number of folks I’ve chatted with the last week who are giving up alcohol for the month (2), starting exercising this month (2), this time REALLY going to find (and go!) to a gym (2), giving up sugar (2), finding a new job (2) …. do they only come in “2’s?”
Perhaps it’s the holiday splurge that leads to the desire to purge, but I think it’s something more than that. Folks seem to lean into reflection in January whether it’s due to a media induced “what is YOUR resolution” or driven by a more internal locus of control/inspiration.
Maybe it’s as simple that when we are reminded that it’s OK to pause and reflect, we give ourselves permission to pause and reflect.
What-ever. I like.
I like the chance to pause. To assess. Reassess what are the important things in my life. What I want more of. What I want less of. How I want to show up in my daily life.
Recently a friend and I were talking about our desires and she noted “I want to laugh everyday” and we gave ourselves a challenge to have one big guffaw every day. That’s MY kind of homework.
And it’s been a literal hoot. I’ve been diving into Youtube to get my laugh hit with some successes and some busts. One that made me laugh recently was watching an episode of the New Girl. One of the characters, Schmidt, a self-professed know it all, intense, business type with full-on New Yorker energy had gone through a recent breakup and his friend, Zoey Deschanel’s character, was determined to get him to find a new girlfriend at a local bar. She pointed out one prospective woman but Schmidt, in typical Schimdt-ness, recoiled saying “Her? Seriously? NO way. She’s on a flip phone. She’s either poor or a time traveler.”
I may have done a spit take. Maybe because I’ve had a flip phone. Maybe because I’ve had moments of being poor or perhaps it’s just because I love the idea of being a time traveler.
Whatever the reason, it made my day. Not Schmidt. The laughter. AND good writing.
Other ones on my mind? Risking a bit more this year, unclenching in stress, envisioning my ukulele skills improving and fun. Definitely more FUN.
So a laugh a day.
Best part? Free and no prescription required.
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on July 25, 2013 at 11:50 AM|
I was one part in love with Goofy and one part horrified.
Ok maybe two parts horrified.
Come ON, he was a big ‘ol goof ball and darn if he wasn’t even embarrassed by it. How horrible is that!!
This is a familiar feeling when I embrace my inner Goofy – love it, hate it, and simultaneously embarrassed by it.
In an acting class I dared myself to take, my fellow students and I were ordered (strike that) … instructed … to all stand in one corner as a clump. We were informed that this was going to be one of several acting exercises that we’d start the class with for the next 8 weeks. One by one we were to make some kind of movement, accompany the movement with a sound and then move from one corner of the room to the other corner making that sound. Our fellow intrepid (hopefully – as I hate being intrepid ALL by my lonesome) students would follow us, imitating our sound and movement.
You want to see 12 people wish an earthquake would happen and swallow them up?
Ask them to do that.
Oh wait a minute, maybe that was just me.
Well, what-EVER it sounds SO much easier than it is.
My acting process in that moment … Oh yeah, I have a PROCESS alright … Maybe not the one the instructor intended … MY process is the following:
Ask myself do I go FIRST ...
a) So all the sounds aren’t taken up (that would be all the sounds apparently IN THE UNIVERSE!!!) or
b) So others will be so preoccupied with their own fear that they won’t recognize my sound is stupid and/or the same one they’ll likely see in the next 5th, 6th or 7th classes
Do I go LAST
a) So I can riff off (ok ok STEAL) someone else’s sound or
b) In the hopes that the instructor will overlook that I didn’t go already.
Stanislavski it is not but it is “being in the moment” which I gleaned from bathroom stall acting student chat is VERY important (Student #1: “I just wasn’t in the moment” – Student #2: “I KNOW, like yesterday, I TOTALLY was in the moment.”
What is this MOMENT?!!!
But then there it was.
On the last day of our 8th week session, we marched lemming style to the corner waiting for our final movement/sound cliff dive. Instead of doing some semi-low key and heavily planned “Eek, eek” sound and flapping my arms like a bird (“See you REALLY want to take an acting class, now, huh?”;), I did a new thing. Instead of waiting to weigh my process options, my body leapt forward as though possessed by the acting confidence of Marlon Brando (ok, maybe more like Gilligan) … that’s not important … but what WAS important was that …
I didn’t think.
I didn’t prepare.
I didn’t look over at someone’s paper/movement and steal.
I started across the floor and listened to what my hands wanted to do. They morphed into jello hands (like jazz hands only SO much better) flailing like a drunk swan with my legs trying to keep up walking in part gorilla/part Seinfield character bad dancer move (ok, maybe I stole from Elaine) while eliciting a “mooga mooga” sound.
I made it across the floor and tapped the far end of the wall feeling as victorious as any wanna’ be Michael Phelps world record breaker slapping the water:
“I did it. I DID it. I DID IT!!!!”
Ok, I have no idea what I did.
But I experienced something. Freedom from self-consciousness for one moment allowed me to freely and fully express myself.
And I LOVED it. Goofy might've even high fived me.
Before I took the class, I heard a famous actor say that “Self-consciousness is death for an actor.”
Hearing this I was stopped in my tracks thinking, “That is definitely not good news for me.”
Maybe it’s better news than I thought.
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on January 1, 2013 at 1:40 PM|
I’ve known Kay for years.
She, like a number of our Artist’s Way students, would never describe herself as an artist.
Here are just some of her artistic (sorry, Kay, got to say it) talents … made most of her childrens' clothes, could knit complex Irish knit sweaters in the dark while watching television with nary a slipped stitch, an expert bread baker, pottery maker, played piano, painted still life images, a stunning dresser, and could recognize a gorgeous tune and a good joke (and offer up a full body head thrown back explosion of laughter to boot).
And that’s just the short version.
She may not have called herself an artist but she did take pride in her tasks. Watching her with the painting palette of colors in her hand staring at the blank canvas and starting to see what would unfold was mesmerizing. Upon commenting on the breakneck speed and skill of her knitting, she often laughed at the idea that she had a gift.
That seems to be a common reaction of non-artists artists. They think their gifts are “nothin’special”. There’s a feeling that “it’s so easy, anyone can do it.”
My knotted ball of discarded yarn in the corner, if it could speak, might have something else to say about that.
This “I’m not a REAL artist” is something I hear often from our Artist’s Way students. My favorite definition of “artist” is “a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.” That applies to actors, writers, singers, and YES, accountants, architects, construction workers, nurses, plumbers, police officers and on and on and on.
When I see someone who is exhibiting that exceptional skill, I am often stopped in my tracks.
I’ve had that feeling watching a local actor, Christine Marie Brown, listening to her scene partner in a Shakespeare play (really, just listening and I couldn’t take my eyes off her …listening!). I’ve had it when a Starbucks barista genuinely showed warmth asking questions about my upcoming day. Or when I get a gift of a collection of songs from an Artist’s Way alum that has chronicled her 12 week Artist’s Way journey with the perfect selection of songs (“I can’t get no satisfaction” to “Imagination”by Dean Martin).
“Wow. Wow. WOW!”
Sometimes we need others to be able to name our artistic talents as it’s easy for us to minimize ours. When I acknowledge others’ talents and others have acknowledged my own gifts, it can feed our own artistic impulses reminding us that “Yes, it IS SO worth my time to put in that half hour of singing scales… Tanya noticed how much stronger my voice has become. YAY!”
The gifts come ‘round.
I’ve been the beneficiary of Kay's gifts whether it was receiving a complement for my singing/piano playing (I may STILL be glowing from that one), wearing a gorgeous Irish knit sweater on a long seattle-wet day or sitting down to my favorite treat of a homemade piece of bread with jam and butter.
In our Artist’s Way classes, I get so tickled when I see a student discover or acknowledge a talent whether it’s decorating her Christmas tree by herself, ability to tell a great story and get knowing laughs in return, or declaring “I AM a good teacher … it’s what I want to do.”
I learned from the best the sweetness that comes when your gifts get acknowledged. It’s a gift that we can give each other -- daily if we feel like it – whether to the Starbucks barista, our children, partners, parents and yes, even to ourselves.
Thanks, Kay ... aka "mom" ... SO much!
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on September 3, 2012 at 3:45 PM|
It reminds me of the time when I was a therapist and was trying to embody/channel my brilliant consultant who had the loveliest delivery when talking about how she might talk to kids.
She’d start out in a high sing song-ing voice and end in a calm, reassuring alto. Her go to feedback always started with ...
“I might say … ‘I’m wondering if may-be …’”
I was prepared. I practiced the line over and over in my head …
“I’m wondering IF … I’M wondering if … I’m WONDERING if…”.
The time had come. One early evening 6:00 pm session I was ready to try this with a favorite little 6 year old girl client of mine.
And I began …
“I’m wondering if mayyyyy-beeeee ….”
She stopped her play mid-doll house rearranging, stared at my face, looked very confused and said quizzically:
“You SAID that funny.”
I burst out laughing. Hard.
She couldn’t help herself and laughed along with me … intuiting that I wasn’t laughing at her but appreciating the honesty and spot-on-it-ness of her comment.
I said “You're right. You got that right, I DID say that funny.”
She taught ME that day.
I gotta’ be me. You gotta’ be you. Anything else and we’re going to be” funny”.
Not in a good way.
The most profound, perfect, insightful comment could have come from my supervisor but if I couldn’t find a way to say it AND be me at the same time it was going to do the big ‘ol stinky belly flop.
We think though others have it figured out. We think that if we could just find a way to be like them, we’d be golden. Free from trying out our own methods and possibly fail. What could be better? We’ll just find something that is tried and true and viola … success … happy clients/customers/family members/partners …
The heavens will open …. Riches will be bestowed on us … the angels will sing …
OK I’m getting a little carried away.
But you get the picture.
We think if we do it THAT way, THEIR way, we’ll do it RIGHT.
And what’s wrong with doing it right?
But I’ve learned it has to be congruent for me.
It has to be honest.
Julia talks about the importance of affirming ourselves and how using affirmations can help us in creating a sense of safety for ourselves.
Instead of affirming that my supervisors way was the only path to take, I could have affirmed my own intuition re: how to respond in the moment. "As I listen to myself and to others, I will have the right thing to say."
My motivation of using my supervisor’s “line” was to connect with my client which, while coming from a good place, resulted in my not being REALLY present with the kiddo and allowing my own insights and observations to bubble up.
As potentially awkward and imperfect as they might be.
The ironic thing was that our laughing together over my mimicking was a real bonding moment for us. It seemed to forge a deeper connection which allowed us to do some good work together.
Maybe it IS about being funny.
Or perhaps it’s just the old truism. Laughter really IS the best medicine.
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on May 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM|
There are few things that get my blood a boilin’ and my heart a racin’ more than one particular phrase.
“I am not an artist.”
Usually delivered in a wilting voice, shrunken shoulders all while scurrying away. Recently, I saw one person declare it in a group and then another said "me too" and then another one: "I'm the same". They then ran to each other, embraced and formed what looked like an amoeba like pod almost to say “don’t ATTACK us you-artist-professing-person-you.”
My sense that they seemed to anticipate an "attack" might give me a clue to what they might be feeling.
Somewhere down the line someone or some thing might, just might, have given them the message that they were not an artist.
When I facilitate our Artist's Way classes, I think of "artist" and "artistry" in the broadest of terms. One of the many definitions of “artist” includes this nugget: "Someone who is a creative person (a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination)."
I have seen people who display true artistry in doing accounting, in their gardening, in how they parent, in how they tell a story, to how they put together an outfit. It is an incredibly beautiful thing to see the artist in every single one of my students and it is often very individual and unique.
The origins of the "I'm not an artist" mantra seem to vary. I’ve heard from some students how they were shamed by others or they shamed themselves when they couldn’t match up their art with someone else’s vision of REAL art.
Who hasn’t had that experience in school of trying to draw something and seeing some art savant wiz kid next to you draw a perfect tree while yours in comparison shouted to you: “Charlie Brown tree anyone?!”
And then it begins.
The mantra begins to seep in “He’s an artist, I’m not.”
Or maybe someone looked at your painting and sneered and we thought “yup, not going to experience THAT again”. Thus the no artist tattoo got burned into our brain.
Maybe we bought into the cultural definition that “artists” are solely those select few other folks who draw, act, sing, or dance. Maybe we didn’t get seen for the amazing artistry we bring in the gifts we were bestowed with or have developed (thank goodness for others who can recognize those gems in us!).
But I’ve learned how to respond.
Not always perfectly.
My first inclination? To want to pounce on the clump of the 3 professing “non-artistry” pod and exclaim “YES, YOU ARE!!!!”
Yeah, that’s definitely going to help.
Not so much.
Instead, I try to remember what might be behind it and instead smile and reflect on when I used to feel the same way, because I did. Heck, there were things I claimed not to be even when I hadn’t tried them. For example, “I’m not a dancer.” Mind you, I had never even TRIED to dance apart from the trauma-inducing 9th grade dances at my high school.
Confession: Stairway to Heaven still causes me to break out in a cold sweat.
But then a friend gently introduced me to swing dancing and now I’m a swing dancing enthusiast (albeit a constantly learning and imperfect one which I am learning to embrace.).
Now after remembering how it felt to not see myself as artistic, I now reply: “Boy, can I relate. I used to say that about myself a lot. Now? Not so much.”
Then I can let it go … mostly. Instead of needing to hit them over the head with “you are too an artist” baton, I make a point of seeing the artistry in them and maybe even take a minute and name their gifts (because BOY are they!).
“WOW, you are a great story teller.”
“I LOVE that you moved your door in your house so that it faces the street. Fantastic!”
“That is one STYLIN' dress.”
Gifted, every single one of ‘em.
Now, THAT can really get my heart a racin’.
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on January 1, 2012 at 6:05 PM|
It is a tradition.
At the end of every Artist's Way class, we do the failure bow.
And we document it with a photo.
It's something we introduce early on in the 12 week Artist's Way class. The failure bow was introduced to me in an Improv class when the instructor said "Not failing in Improv is impossible plus it would be VERY boring if you didn't fail." SO, he taught us that we need to get comfortable with failing and one way to do that is when we fail we need to celebrate the failing by:
Raising our hands over our head as we smile and shout "I failed!"
Then everyone claps for you (and you clap for yourself too).
The first time I did it, the instructor said "Hey hey hey you didn't smile. You need to smile." I said "Can you fail at the failure bow?" Apparently not. Whew!
The cool thing is we've noticed it seeps into other parts of our students' (and our) lives so that when they are at work they do little failure bows (in their head mostly) when they fail at something and then ... move along.
We figure this is a great lesson to incorporate as we create - failing is a good thing - it keeps us open to the process of creating - whatever that looks like.
Plus it is just fun.
Fall 2011 Artist's Way Sunday night students:
Fall 2011 Friday morning Artist's Way students:
Fall 2011 Artist's Way Redux students:
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on December 28, 2011 at 10:20 PM|
"In any creative life there are dry seasons."
So opines Julia Camera in Week 10: Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection on page 169 of her book "The Artist's Way."
When we encounter this chapter in our tenth week of class, I'm usually not in a dry season and in fact I'm usually flying high with the growth that I've seen in myself over the previous 10 weeks and in that of our students.
And then Week 15 and 16 hit.
Ok, technically there is no week 15 or 16 in Julia's book (the book only has 12 chapters/12 weeks). But after going through 12 exhilerating weeks, there is usually a little bit of a dry season or "drought" sneakily waiting around the corner for me as our students have gone off flying toward their creative dreams.
And the drought feels like a lightening bolt. Appearing from out of nowhere.
And Julia confirms.
Julia: "These droughts appear from nowhere and stretch to the horizon like a Death Valley vista. Life loses its sweetness; our work feels mechanical, empty, forced."
And the "work feeling mechanical"?
You mean if you can get to the "work".
Sometimes it's more along the lines of "what was I thinking that I liked to (fill in the blank) ... sing, take photos, write." Et ctr. et ctr. et ctr.
And then a "crash" often hits. The cold hits, the back goes out - often the physical is the first reminder.
We ... ok, ok, ... "I" ... sometimes forget that "rest," times when things lie fallow is exactly what I need, that that IS part of the creative process. OH to learn that without having to be sick to be reminded! (Fallow defined: "Plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility as part of a crop rotation or to avoid surplus production." LOVE this - restoring fertility indeed!).
I don't go gently into that good night.
I tend to prefer the part of the process where I'm running around being creative and have Ah-Ha moment after Ah-Ha moment.
The Ah-Ha moments of "I need to rest" or "I need to read trash books" or "I need to pause and not write right now" are not my fave.
Those feel more like Ho-Hum moments, but they are like dueling brother/sister creative connections that need to remind themselves that they are indeed family and need to reside somewhat peaceably with one another.
But then synchronicity comes to the rescue!
Just as I was wallowing in what felt like a flat lining creative week, an acquaintance talked about how she was needing to rest a lot that week and how she needed to remind herself that rest was in fact "doing" something.
I hear someone say "Keep it simple."
And here's the other thing.
I don't have to like it.
But I find I often DO have to do it.
And sometimes the "DO" is "do nothing".
I think about what "keeping it simple" means.
I write my morning pages.
Even if some mornings it feels like the pen is a 40 pound weight.
I recall Julia's promise that "the mere act of showing up on the page, like the act of walking through a tracklesss desert, requires one footfall after another to no apparent point. ... For all creative beings, the morning pages are the lifeline - the trail we explore and the trail home to ourselves."
I ask the basic question - what do I need?
And it varies. 10 hours of sleep, 4 nights in a row, going to the recent George Clooney movie only because I've been fantasizing about trips to Hawaii for months, steaming hot Tom Yum soup or practice getting good at saying "I'm resting."
And remind myself (again!) that resting IS doing something.
I may continue to read my light reading books and find some kernels of wisdom as I found in the book "Joy for Beginners" ...
"Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up."
"Over the years, she had forgotten what it felt like to walk with the delicous purposelessness of going nowhere."
So in this period of rest, I'm going to keep my eye open for mini-fun moments, may go for an aimless walk and recall the final promise in Chapter 10:(
"Droughts do end."
I think I feel the water a-comin' as we speak ...
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on November 23, 2011 at 11:05 PM|
So we'd been confessing.
"It's been 5 days since my last check-in/confession, and these are my ... I haven't had an Artist's Date in x days."
Ok maybe not a "sin" exactly but we were noticing that the 'ol artist's dates were sloughing off.
This is not uncommon when we hit Week 10/11 in our 12 week Artist's Way class.
An Artist's Date, for those not in the know, is time one spends solo, usually planned (at least an hour but not could be less or more) with the focus being something that would be fun for YOU ("you" being the operative word here). Could be just about anything ... but the one rule is "let it be fun."
It got me thinking.
And the class talking.
What's the benefit of an Artist's Date?
It fills the well.
The creative well.
The artistic well.
The inspire-me-please well.
The students lamented that what was keeping them from doing their dates was forgetting that the date could be just FUN. It didn't have to be "good art" dates (i.e. museums, and more museums). In fact doing something that called to you in that "woo hoo" way was probably the most important thing to listen to when signing on for an Artist's Date.
I'd been inspired to have an Artist's Date a few days before after listening to the "pull over and check out that shop" voice. I went to this cool little shop on top of Queen Anne Hill - Charley + May and saw this bird made of wire that was attached to a rock.
"Our students could have fun with this."
Off I went to my favorite of all time hardware store Hardwicks and got some wire.
And they got working.
We love our little wire/rock creations.
We thought they were very Seuss-ian. And that made us very pleased.
Thank YOU Artist's Date.
And the whole class' work (mine is the dolphin with no tail - inspired by the dolphin tale movie!).
And our Friday morning Artist's Way students' contributions! ...
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on November 18, 2011 at 8:40 PM|
The exercise was to write down things you loved.
No limits except do it in 4 minutes.
I love these exercises.
For the smile it puts on my face when I do it.
For the tickle I feel when I hear fellow students giggle as they air their “loves.”
And the responses? Glorious.
The smells, textures, ideas, and feelings that surface are enlivening.
The discoveries from some students that “… and all of these are free!”
But best of all, I love the surprises.
My surprise this time was remembering the perfect salad.
I love a perfect salad.
And there was ONE perfect salad that came to mind instantly.
I’d turned 40 and gone off for 3 weeks by myself to Ireland to travel around and have an adventure. It was a wonderful trip, full of new friends, green filled sights, images of dolphins on the west coast and of course … the salad.
I’d been craving vegetables. For those who’ve been to Ireland “back in the day”, searching for a PCC/Whole Foods version for vegetables was “challenging” to say the least (or maybe I didn’t know where to look).
The fact was 2 weeks in and counting, I was seriously craving a salad.
Greens, and the crunch of small carrots, nuts, olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing, ripe tomatoes danced in my head.
Food was always serious business (and comfort) in my family. Homemade breads, hand kneaded pizzas, fresh soups ... all courtesy of the chef gene my Croatian grandfather had handed down.
So I was very excited on one very rainy (shocking, I know) day in the north of Ireland somewhere up near Donegal, I came upon a pub sitting on the blustery coast. I scanned the menu and became downright giddy when I saw “salad.”
A Caesar Salad, no less.
The king of salads.
I ordered. Salivating a little. Then some more. And even more.
It finally arrived without king fanfare except for my “thank you thank you thank you” horn blaring.
It wasn’t exactly what I expected.
It had greens alright, but apart from the tomotoes that was about it on the vegetable front.
I almost thought to send it back but then heard the “Come ON… when in Rome …”
And I took my first bite.
The lettuce was loaded in what seemed like a pound of hot bacon, crunchy homemade croutons, roasted walnuts, tomatoes and smothered with a homemade Caesar dressing.
Did I mention it’d been really cold outside?
I was in heaven.
It may not have been what I had been calling out for, but it scratched my itch for something comforting.
Sometimes I forget that what I think I want isn’t necessarily what the universe decides to provide.
It’s even better.
So today my artist date was to create the perfect salad.
Armed with the ability to improvise ... in addition to the bacon, tomatoes, homemade croutons, and Caesar dressing, I added goat cheese, olives, pepperoncini, and sunflower seeds.
I had my first bite and I savored it. I could feel myself back in that pub – outside - the cold, sideways wind blowing to and fro, the fireplace blazing in the pub and me with my toasty, tasty, fatty salad.
And I loved it.
All over again.
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on November 5, 2011 at 5:45 PM|
One of our fall Artist's Way students suggested us doing a photo blog entry ... great idea, Sharon! Here it is:
Candle idea stolen from Crate and Barrel:
Like rose petals:
It's all about perspective ... lucky birds ...
Artist's Way student fleur goodness ...
It's got it all ...
And the leaf end zone ...